What is lactose intolerance?
One of the more common food intolerances is that of lactose, which is a sugar found only in milk and milk products, such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. There is an estimated 68% of the worldwide population who have difficulty digesting foods containing lactose, mainly due to a lack of the enzyme “lactase”. (1)
What is lactase?
The lactase enzyme is produced in the digestive system to break down lactose into more useful constituents. Without lactase, people with lactose intolerance can experience gas, bloating, diarrhea, and even abdominal pain after consuming milk products. Beyond immediate discomfort, there can also be a longer-term impact when people cut out milk products to prevent the effects of lactose intolerance. As dairy products are some of the more potent sources of micronutrients like vitamin D and calcium, there is an increased risk of deficiency if the strategy to manage lactose intolerance is solely to remove dairy. Calcium and vitamin D play vital roles in preserving bone density. (1)
Therefore, in addition to avoiding foods with milk, those with lactose intolerance must also strengthen their digestive system with prebiotics and probiotics, as well as find lactose-free sources of calcium and vitamin D.
There are a few ways to diagnose lactose intolerance aside from cross-checking the symptoms of consuming dairy products. These include a Hydrogen breath test, blood glucose test, and stool sample test. (3)
What are prebiotics and probiotics?
In nutrition science, prebiotics are fibers and plant compounds that act as foods for the live bacteria that reside in your digestive tract. They help the beneficial bacteria thrive and proliferate to keep your gut health in check. Examples of prebiotics include resistant starches in artichokes, oats, bananas, and dandelion greens.
Probiotics, on the other hand, are live bacteria found in raw, fermented foods that add to your existing gut flora. They can be used to re-populate the gut with beneficial bacteria as well as to maintain balanced gut microbiomes. Examples of raw, fermented foods include R’s KOSO, raw kimchi, raw sauerkraut, and unpasteurized kombucha.
Gut health and lactose tolerance
Researchers who led a groundbreaking study in North Carolina, USA have found a way to leverage the power of the gut microbiome to strengthen the body’s ability to digest lactose. It was already known that your tolerance of lactose reduces as you age, with up to 75% of all humans eventually becoming intolerant of lactose. (2)
The study made scientific discoveries that correlate dietary prebiotics with the growth of beneficial microbes in the gut biome that can improve lactose digestion independent of lactase production. (2)
By supplementing the “community of lactose-metabolizing bacteria that reside in the colon”, they boosted the body’s resilience against dairy products. Prebiotics were used to change the microbiota in favor of lactose digestion. This study yielded a 70% reduction in abdominal pain experienced by participants and improved other markers of lactose tolerance by up to 90%. (2)
Prebiotics for dairy digestion
You can also use prebiotics in your day-to-day nutrition strategy to strengthen your gut against dairy products. The easiest way is to add a serving of R’s KOSO in water in the morning upon waking. It adds a subtle plum-flavored natural sweetness to water while infusing it with prebiotics from fermenting over 100 gluten-free plant foods, such as leafy greens, fruits, and mushrooms.
Doing so will help to feed the bacterial flora in your gut while also delivering a serving of probiotics to help with balancing the populations of beneficial bacteria strains.
For ideas on how to incorporate R’s KOSO, you can find a library of recipes on R’s KOSO blog and YouTube channel.
Keren Chen | CBT Nutritionist
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